Summer Entertaining Tips

Top Tips for Summer Entertaining

Summer’s in full swing! The smell of freshly cut grass, the sound of kids playing, and the sight of clear blue skies fill our senses, while we all prepare for a season of summer fun… including lively get-togethers!

This year, make your summer parties even more entertaining, affordable, convenient, and healthy with just a few simple touches. Here are several helpful suggestions to get you get started in planning the most successful soiree of the season:

  • Go for multi-purpose décor: Your summer entertaining will most likely be outside, so spruce up your deck or patio with items that not only add to the atmosphere and style of your spot, but also help everyone enjoy themselves. A large table umbrella can add a dash of color while also keeping your guests shaded. Hanging lanterns and twinkle lights are an elegant way to help everyone see each other once the sun goes down. And citronella candles can help to fill the air with great scents while also keeping pests away.
  • Make it a DIY gathering: While the grill is going, set up everything else outside. Line a table with stacks of plates, cups, napkins, utensils, buns, and side dishes. Then fill a cooler with everyone’s favorite drinks nestled in ice. When the food is ready, your guests can fill their own plates and pluck their own favorite items off the grill while you enjoy the visit. You’ve just reduced clean-up duty as well!
  • Embrace and customize themes: Themes are a great way to coordinate all get-togethers, large or small. Sometimes a few details might make you wary of a certain idea, but this summer take advantage of any great theme by customizing it to you. Want to unwind with friends and a cool drink after work while watching the kids? No problem. Create some frozen drinks everyone can enjoy while relaxing together. Love the idea of a picnic, but not the reality of being less than comfortable? Instead of a blanket, use outdoor chair cushions to make your spot more enjoyable while still getting that picnic feel. You get the idea.
  • What can we bring? It’s the question you usually get right after inviting friends and family over. Then you probably usually say, “Nothing at all” or “Just yourselves!” But there’s a way to take advantage of their generosity without putting them out. Tell guests who offer some help to bring their favorite outdoor games or music. These are two areas you might forget about, and there’s no cost for your guests to bring what they already have. Win-win.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix up the menu: We know, it’s barbecue season. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend the next three months dining on nothing but hot dogs and hamburgers (though you still will want to at least a few times, right?). This summer, change things up by trying a different main course option. For instance, grill your favorite fish as the centerpiece of your meal to add a fun new taste to your typical summer dining. Also be sure to take advantage of the great variety of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables available at outdoor farmers’ markets or even your own garden. Everything tastes best at its peak ripeness.

Remember, this great weather won’t last forever, so get out and enjoy it. Make this summer all about having fun with your favorite people, and keep an eye out for ways to do so more easily and affordably.

What’s your best summer entertaining tip? Tell us in the comments!


Super Staycations

Super Staycations

Want a summer break? Need a summer break? But funds are a little low this year?

No fret! It’s time to think outside the box and discover the advantage of taking a summer staycations (i.e., a vacation in which you don’t travel away from home).

Your own backyard and your own hometown both offer some great getaways that you might not have thought of—and which won’t break the bank. They’re easy to plan, inexpensive, and fun, offering great enjoyment for you, your family, and your friends.

Here are some of our favorite staycation ideas:

  • Be a Tourist: Take a trip to your city’s own convention and visitor’s bureau to check out pamphlets on attractions in your area you may have missed or haven’t seen in several years. Ask for recommendations on restaurants you’ve never tried. And inquire about festivals, outdoor concerts, or special activities coming up. You may just see your city through new eyes!
  • Visit Some Furry Friends: When was the last time you went to the zoo? Rather than hurrying around to make sure you see all of the animals, take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the personality quirks of those on your way. You’ll be surprised at how the animals react when different groups come through.
  • Play Copycat: Recreate your favorite vacation spot with a favorite meal, a movie, or a few decorations. It’s funny how just a few tiki cups, paper umbrellas, and a lei can whisk you away to a faraway island without even leaving your own zip code.
  • Host a Movie Night: If you have access to a video projector and sound system, host a backyard movie night by showing a favorite flick onto a projection screen or sheet. Provide popcorn and soda (plus other theatre treats if you’re feeling ambitious) and invite the neighbors to bring their own seating. If you have a pool, even better! A float-in movie is always a big hit.
  • Camp in Your Own Backyard: Set up a tent and sleeping bags right in your backyard. Make s’mores on the grill. Tell stories. And try to identify the major constellations in your night sky. It’s a great way to enjoy the great outdoors without leaving the comforts of home behind!

Have you ever done a staycation? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments!


Celebrate you this summer!

Celebrate YOU This Summer!

Chances are, your schedule will probably become pretty hectic this summer. Cookouts, weddings, sporting events, and other get-togethers will fill your days, nights, and weekends. But one thing you must never forget is to make some time for you. Just for you!

One way to make sure this happens is to write it down on a calendar—with a pen. Declare this time as sacred and non-negotiable. After all, there’s no denying we all need a few moments to enjoy some quiet “me” time on our own terms.

Here are a few suggestions on how to make that goal a reality:

  • Backyard Oasis: Sometimes all you need is a glass of lemonade, a hammock, a good book, or an iPod to shut the world out and relax. Be sure to set aside some time each week to just be by yourself and recharge your batteries.
  • Go Retro: Remember the ol’ days of listening to a baseball game on the radio? Relaxing on a veranda swing? Taking a nap? No? Well trust us, it’s worth a try. Every single one of them.
  • Party of One Always Has Fun: When was the last time you got to pick your dinner location, movie, or date activity? Well, it’s high time you took yourself out on a date! If you feel uncomfortable with the idea of dining alone, bring along a book or journal to write in. A few hours of solitude spent seeing a movie or wandering around a museum can also do wonders to calm the spirit.
  • Seasonal shopping: Summer is a great time for scouring outdoor flea markets and farmers’ markets. Take your time looking around and seeing what there is to offer. Ask a collector about their wares or a produce vendor about the proper way to prepare a vegetable you’ve never tried before. You’ll find yourself learning something new while at the same time having fun.
  • Expand your Crafting Education: Speaking of learning something new, have you always wanted to learn how to quilt, quill, or do another classic craft? Check out your local craft store’s class schedule and sign up to get started right away!

Top 10 Family Reunion Ideas

Relationships are the fabric of our lives. They are the fibers that weave all things together - Eden Frost quote | American Greetings Blog

There’s something about summer that inspires us to connect with family to celebrate the unique bond that unites us. The joy of sharing not only a cultural heritage, but a family history makes these multi-generational gatherings a time-honored tradition.

Whether it’s an elaborate gathering of the entire network of extended relatives or just your immediate family, here are some great ideas for get-togethers that will have everyone enjoying the day together and creating some special memories.

  1. Check out the zoo (and we don’t mean your zany cousins): A visit to your local zoo will bring out the kid in everyone as they explore different exhibits and learn about exotic creatures. Interactive places like this also inspire conversation and mingling throughout the group, which is the main goal of any family reunion.
  2. Croquet in the park: This centuries-old lawn game is making a comeback in a big way—and it also allows all ages and skill levels to partake in the fun. Pack a picnic, bring out the wickets and hoops, and enjoy a relaxing (and minimally competitive) sport.
  3. Celebrate your heritage: Choosing a memorable date from your family’s country of origin is a good way to help everyone remember when you’ll get together each year. Make your party a celebration of your roots by utilizing traditional colors, foods, activities, and even a little history lesson for the younger generation.
  4. Of grapes and grain: If you’re looking for a way for just the adults to enjoy some time together, visiting a local winery can be a fun way to get outside and enjoy a few spirits in good company. Check with the winery beforehand to see if reservations are necessary and if you’re permitted to bring your own snacks. If so, assign a few people to breads and fruits and ask everyone else to bring a new type of cheese to share.
  5. Take me out to the ball game: Few things say summer like a baseball game—but even if you don’t have a major league budget, minor league and local high school games can still prove to be fun for the whole family.
  6. Scrounging for clues: For another type of interactive activity, consider hosting a scavenger hunt. There are many resources on the Internet to make planning a snap. Consider assigning teams of non-immediate family members to get everyone involved and working together.
  7. Summer camp, family style: Camping doesn’t just have to be just for the experienced outdoorsmen—there are many state parks and recreation areas that offer lovely accommodations for pitching a tent or parking a recreational vehicle for a weekend of turning off the electronic devices and enjoying the great outdoors. What better way to connect than over a campfire and a few good ghost stories?
  8. Cook-off: Is your family known for their barbeque or another summer treat? Host a cook-off where the family chefs present their best recipes (and bring copies to share!) A fun set of cooking utensils makes an appropriate, yet inexpensive grand prize.
  9. Walk for a cause: Start off a traditional picnic with a purpose by signing up the family to participate in a fundraising walk. Selecting a cause that’s near and dear to your family will ensure that everyone feels connected to the event. Host a potluck picnic afterwards to keep the good times going—and pat yourselves on the back for the good deed you’ve done!
  10. Make your family tree: A great activity during any family reunion is to piece together your family tree and history. Take photos of all family members who attend and ask them to provide photos of family members who could not attend or are deceased. Consider putting this family history together in a format that everyone can order a copy of like a custom photo book.

What special things does your family do in order to stay in touch? We’d love to hear in the comments!


Creative Decorating for Kids Birthday Parties

Themes for kids birthday parties have become more original than ever — just check out what’s new online and on Pinterest In the quest to be different, here are some simple ways to add the finishing touches to an original theme using materials you have right at home or can purchase affordably:

Welcome to the party:  Balloons and streamers are always festive, but you can also use some offbeat ideas to let your guests know they they have the right house.  Create a fun path to the front door by cutting paper plates into the shape of pinwheels and have them spinning, or use party cups as faux luminaries by filling them with sand and lining them up to the door.

Fun banners: Purchase a simple design gift wrap or even use plates with a favorite character on them. Cut your wrap into fun shapes, or cut out the characters, and link the pieces together with string to create a one-of-a-kind pennant banner.

 A fresh take on centerpieces:  Get the “pop” without the cost by creating whimsical flower bouquets out of tissue paper.  Just shape the paper into blooms and put attractive color combinations together in any vase.

Placing it just right: Give your table a coordinated look by cutting wrap into squares and putting them under each place setting along with matching silverware holders. Or, even easier, use a roll of gift wrap as your tablecloth.

Consistency is key:  No matter what your party is focused on, you can keep the theme alive everywhere through simple elements such as creating a border around mirrors in puffy stickers (which are easier to remove), or even just using balloons or streamers to line every entrance.

Remember, thinking outside the box can make decorating for your next birthday party easy and affordable!


Wrapping up Summer…

Summer Fun

It feels like we were just talking about getting your summer started, and now it’s already almost time to say goodbye to the care-free warm days of this fun season. Although schools will be starting up again soon, and we’ll all be back to busier schedules, there’s still  time left to enjoy summer. If you’re wondering when the official end of summer is – it falls on September 21, so make the most of the next 5 weeks with some end-of-summer fun! Here are some of our favorite ideas you still have time to fit it.

Capture Summer Memories

If you’ve been snapping pictures all summer long, now is the time to organize all of your memories and create something fun. Take a day to put all your photos together in a scrapbook – digital or paper. You can even make your favorite summer pictures into personalized cards and send them out to friends and family!

Last-Minute Vacation

It’s not too late to squeeze one more fun vacation weekend in! How about a family camping trip, or an adventure to your local amusement park? You may even save some money if you plan these trips into September, and as a bonus you may not have the crowds you’d find a few weeks earlier.

Get to the Pool

The weather is still hot and sunny, so soak up the sun at your local pool or water park. Most pools stay open until Labor Day weekend, so make the most of the time you have left!

Have a Movie Marathon

Stuck inside due to a late summer storm? No problem! Have a family movie marathon day. Have each member of the family choose a favorite movie, pop some popcorn, make fun snacks, and enjoy a lazy day!


Birthday Party Themes


Birthday Party Themes

You’re never too old for a big celebration! Not sure where to begin? Here are some great ideas to make birthday party planning easy.

A retro-themed party is the perfect way to create a blast from the past. Send out personalized invitations so guests know how to dress to match the era. Check out iTunes for music that will get everyone dancing—whether it’s the Jitterbug or the Hustle!  Decorate with old photos of the birthday honoree—guests can contribute these, too—or use the fave pix to make a crazy scrapbook of memories right at the party. You can even create your own photo booth with a digital camera. Use imaginative era-specific accessories to go with your theme, then send guests a photo card as a party favor. Don’t forget those thank-you cards, either!

An elegant-themed party is another way to go, so do it up right with a coordinated look.  Choose a color scheme, then accent your napkins and plates with decorative stickers and appliques from a craft store. Use stencils to add a custom border to a paper tablecloth. Flowers make the perfect centerpiece, so select some blossoms in your color choice and decorate the vase using the stencils as well as matching ribbons.  When it comes to the dessert, use your imagination—you may want to try cupcakes or cake pops vs. a more traditional cake. Finish off the celebration with a toast that lists as many qualities of the guest of honor as there are birthday years. All your partygoers will have fun helping with this one, and it will create a wonderful birthday memory to treasure.